DID YOU EVER PUT A PEBBLE IN SOMEONE’S SHOE?

I am reading a great book by  Gregory Koukl entitled “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions.” Have you ever felt the guilt or pressure of trying to the share the Gospel immediately with a co-worker, friend, or acquaintance? I know I have.  I think our motives are right because we truly want people to come to know Christ.  After all there is no other solution to the problem of sin that plagues all of us is there?  Apart from salvation in Christ alone there is no answer. Hundreds of books have been written to help us apologetically defend or advance the claims of the one true Gospel. And yet it seems like we are missing  something. Maybe where we drop the ball is in simply learning how to use what we know so that we might  share the Gospel more effectively.

Gregory Koukl in his book made this insightful statement that has been extremely helpful to me in sharing the Gospel with others. He said “I try to put a pebble in someone’s shoe.”  Now that very idea really grabbed me. He went on to demonstrate how to put a pebble in someone’s shoe  by using the “Columbo Method” in gaining an audience. In our conversations with unbelievers we can introduce “the pebble” without introducing tension early on in the dialogue.

Some of you will remember the TV series about the bumbling-appearing detective named Columbo. With his rumpled coat and stubby cigar he would enter the crime scene looking for all the world like a fish out of water. He would appear hesitant, dumb, confused, inept, and just plain at a loss as to how to proceed.  He gave the appearance of not being able to think his way out of a wet paper bag. He would poke around the crime scene, scratch his head, hesitate, and then he would make his move with these words: “I’ve got a problem. There’s something about this thing that bothers me.  Maybe you could clear it up for me. DO YOU MIND IF I ASK YOU A QUESTION?”  And there it is. “The pebble in someone’s shoe.”  The question that lingers in the mind and disturbs the thought process.  You know how aggravating, how insistent a pebble in your shoe can be?  That first question is often innocent enough, but then it leads to another question and then another. And who can forget when Columbo is about to exit the scene he would turn and say something like this: ” I’m sorry, I know I am making a pest of myself. It’s because I keep asking these questions. I can’t help myself. It’s a habit.”  And then he would ask just one more question.  Author Koukl concludes this little tactic with these instructive words for us: “The key to the Columbo tactic is to go on the offensive in an inoffensive way by using carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation. Simply put, never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job.”

As I thought about this little principle I could not help but notice that Jesus did the same thing. Remember these questions Jesus asked?

He asked the lame man the question:“Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6). He asked a certain crowd curious about John the Baptist: “What did you go out into the desert to see?” (Matthew 11:7). He asked a critical group of leaders who were bothered by his healing on the Sabbath day: “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11). When some confused Jesus with Satan and Satanic powers, Jesus asked: “How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?”  (Matthew 12:29). When Jesus wanted people to think about eternal matters he asked: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). After Jesus told the story of the Samartian man who helped the wounded man on the Jericho road, he turned to the lawyer & the crowd and asked this question: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36)(for further reading on this topic check out Randy Newman’s book: Questioning Evangelism).

These are but the tip of the iceberg of all the questions Jesus asked. I wonder if we should not ask the Spirit of God to help us use more questions as pebbles in a person’s shoe.  Sooner or later the person we speak to is going to have to stop and try to get that pebble out of his shoe. Then is our chance to share lovingly the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Load up on pebbles! Think it thru

 

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WHAT IS THE REAL TRAGEDY IN ALL THE TRAGEDIES?

tragedy 2Human tragedies are common and becoming all too commonplace, even in the USA. What days of upheaval are upon as as we follow the news.

  • Little boy almost killed by a gorilla in the Cincinnati zoo
  • Little boy is killed by an alligator in Orlando Florida
  • Many people murdered by terrorists in the Club in Florida
  • Dallas police officers targeted and murdered
  • Young black men losing their lives under questionable circumstances
  • People killed in France by a truck driver with apparent terrorist leadings
  • The myriad of shootings in schools and public venues, churches and parks.
  • AND THE LIST GOES ON…

All of us agree that these tragedies are real, painful, and deadly.  Many tell us the answer is to ban guns or have more strict gun control laws [of course many more people are killed by automobiles and in plane crashes – maybe we should ban them too–just a thought]. Others tell us that we just need to educate people more and if they knew stuff they don’t know now, they wouldn’t do such things [we already know more now than we are doing!].  Some say we need more laws passed [We have many laws that we don’t follow now!]

May I suggest to you  a much deeper tragedy?  It is in not understanding our own natures and in not understanding the God of the Bible who presides over history and this planet.  Until the human nature undergoes a deep, inward, spiritual change, we can act no different than we do, and human nature unchanged never ascends in morality, but descends into more and more  immoral and despicable acts [Romans 1].

The cross of Christ ends the tragedies and heals the hearts of those affected by tragedy for it is there our hope of a change in our nature begins.  It is Christ in the life through the new birth that heals the race, lifts the behavior, and restores the soul to where God in his wise creation intended for it to be.  Think about our value system that excludes God’s perspective. We truly do worship and serve the creation over the Creator.

I was listening to the TV ads regarding donations to save dogs and cats. They play tearful music over abused animals.  [Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see animals abused either]. But think about the thousands of aborted babies every year in our country alone…where are the tears for that horrific tragedy?  Save the whales…kill the babies…that is where we have now landed.  I was shocked to hear of the push back when the Cincinnati zoo killed the gorilla to save the little boy.  Some people were outraged at the killing of the gorilla. We have become our own god passing judgment and valuing animal life over human life.

Can we explain what is behind  human tragedy and why God would allow such events to occur? Apart from the fallenness of our race and the effects of sin on humanity, much of it IS a mystery. Yet in the Bible God allowed some tragedies to come  to awaken His people to their need of revival and a return to His ways and His  word [Read some of the Old Testament prophets as they warn his people Israel]. There is no doubt the church is in great need of that return and revival.

It does not mean that the people caught in these tragedies are somehow being singled out and punished by God.  God settled that matter by crucifying His Son on the cross to bear the punishment for all our sins[ I Peter 2:24]. It was  Jesus who was punished for our sins.  Not only that, but  Jesus made it clear in Luke 13:1-5 that the tragedies that occurred where people were killed by a falling tower and some were killed by Pilate unjustly were not worse sinners than any others. Rather, Jesus said the tragedies should bring us to repentance or face a greater tragedy.

But the greatest tragedy of all is the issue of eternal destination for all of those who have  lost their lives.  How many really knew Jesus Christ? This world is a dangerous place.  None of us know when our turn will come to enter the valley of death. For many, perhaps most, it comes suddenly and unexpectedly. The real tragedy is not to be ready for the journey you know for certain you are going to take. That is why John 3:16 looms large over the landscape of every tragedy. That is the answer and that is the hope for a human nature blinded and warped by sin. Not knowing Jesus Christ when earthly life comes to an end? –that my friend is  the real tragedy!!  The Gospel of Jesus Christ had better dominate our interactions with our peers because of what is at stake.  THINK IT THRU…

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?

asking right questions

Each of us is bombarded with information. Every day we encounter new facts and opinions that writers and newscasters and self-proclaimed experts want us to accept. Let’s face it, in all areas of knowledge there are some issues about which experts in those fields disagree. In Neil Browne’s book “Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking” he rightly observes that “You as a reader [or listener] have the tough job of deciding which authority to believe….As a thoughtful person you must choose how you will react to what you see and hear. One alternative is to just accept whatever you encounter; doing so automatically results in your making someone else’s opinion your own. A more active alternative consists of asking questions in an effort to reach a personal decision about the worth of what you have experienced.”

The problem we face is this: What is the right question to ask? I often have people ask me if it is wrong for a believer to engage in a certain practice. Take drinking alcoholic beverages for example. The question I hear is this: Is it wrong for a believer to use alcoholic beverages? But you see that is the wrong question. The question is not “What is wrong with it?” The right question to ask is this: “What is right about it?” With that question I am not thinking in terms of what I can or cannot do…nor am I posing in my mind the issue of how close I can walk to some line and still be ok… godly… Christian! Rather, I am forced now to think of what is best for Christ and His Gospel. The answer is not about what I can do for me, but what am I able to do for Christ!

This is why Paul counsels us in Colossians 3:1-3 about restructuring our thinking when it comes to our life choices. 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Conversion literally changes our thought patterns. The presence of the Holy Spirit brings a new spiritual influence into our lives. The result is that we now engage in a whole different approach to life and the desires of life. The selfish life always asks the question –what is wrong with this- why can I not do this? The selfless life, on the other hand is preoccupied with Christ and thus asks the question – what is right about this- if I did this how would it impact Christ and His gospel?

Why do we struggle with asking the right questions? Henri Nouwen in his book “The Inner Voice of Love” gives us a possible answer: “In many ways, you still want to set your own agenda. You act as if you have to choose among many things, which all seem equally important. But you have not fully surrendered yourself to God’s guidance. You keep fighting with God over who is in control.”

Are you ready to ask the right questions? Think it thru